Stop the contest. End the World Cup. Tell Sachin to stop blubbing.
Glenn Maxwell has completed ODI cricket and the best thing for us all to do is to go home and think about what we have just witnessed. It’s barely worth continuing the tournament.
The feeling on Wednesday morning, Aussie time was analogous to that after Brazil’s 7-1 defeat to Germany in 2014 or Usain Bolt’s third Olympic gold in 2016. What was that thing that we saw? Will we ever see it’s like again?
It’s barely computing at this stage, but was one of just several incredibly unlikely things that happened this week at the World Cup. India’s insane bowling, Pakistan’s incredible run chase, a timed out dismissal, for chrissakes.
Lewis Carroll spoke of doing six impossible things before breakfast, and clearly he had been watching the overnight highlights of the 2023 ICC Cricket World Cup. Let’s get into it.
1 – India (-)
Just when you thought it was the batting it turns out it’s the bowling. India’s last two games have seen them take 20 wickets for 138 runs, which is, at last count, bloody good, and that comes off the back of almost a month of destroying teams with the bat.
Mohammad Shami currently averages seven and has a strike rate of 9.75. Virat Kohlii averages 108 over eight innings and one could make the argument that they haven’t been the best bowler or batter, either, with Jasprit Bumrah and Rohit Sharma outstanding.
The only games that have even been close are the ones where they were needlessly massaging the run rate to get Kohli to milestones, essentially toying with their opposition.
How this ends is great for neutrals: either they go unbeaten and are the greatest team in World Cup history, bar none, which is fun, or they somehow conspire to lose and are the greatest chokers in World Cup history, which might not be fun (for India at least) but would certainly be funny for everyone else.
2 – Australia (+1)
Is this team good? When is a team good?
In this form of cricket, having one or two players do something amazing tends to be enough, and Australia have the talent to do that a lot of the time, as evidenced by the ridiculousness of Glenn Maxwell against Afghanistan and to a lesser extent Adam Zampa against England.
But when you aspire to be the best of the best, at a World Cup, you’d like for more consistent contributions and there’s a fair few in this team who aren’t really doing that.
The Maxwell innings covers up that Australia almost got thrashed by a team they have never lost to, and England might well have done something similar had they not been midway through their own psychodrama.
What the world really needs is for an Australia v South Africa semi – if only for someone to earn the right to be battered by India in the final.
3 – South Africa (-1)
There should be some sort of diatribe here about how they’ll choke, or how they’re only able to set a score, or how their captain is only in their team because he’s the captain, or something like that, but let’s instead discuss how this is a team that only scores in the first innings, but whom both New Zealand and England chose to insert when they won the toss. Madness.
The only chance they have of winning is if they win two tosses in a row in the semis and bat big first both times. That’s already a pretty low chance of happening, so they’re a pretty low chance of winning.
4 – Pakistan (+2)
What is the most Pakistan thing to do?
Drop your opener based on his performance against the Netherlands, then have him score 81 and 126* back to back at a strike rate of over 100 when you recall him because there’s nobody else?
Win a game chasing 402 because of the machinations of the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern Method?
Or lose four in a row, then win out, but exit the tournament on net run rate?
The quest to be peak Pakistan is hilarious for those of us with the softest of spots for them.
What would actually be peak would be if Sri Lanka beat New Zealand but Pakistan lose to England anyway – but the Kiwis won’t let that happen.
Instead, until Pakistan inevitably go out on net run rate, let us dream of a world where they get to the semis and face India again, with the ability to throw the most almighty of spanners in the works.
Box office? It wouldn’t cover it.
5 – New Zealand (-1)
The Kiwis are in a bit of a freefall, partly of their own doing and partly due to rank bad luck.
Their issues with the ball have begun to stack up, because once Glenn Philips’ golden arm stopped working, it’s become obvious that teams can get after those further down the list.
Jimmy Neesham is going worse than Sam Curran – barely bowlable – and, amazing as he has been with the bat, Rachin Ravindra is also a bit of a liability with the ball.
They’ve been hit for 388 by Australia, 357 by South Africa and 200 within 26 overs by Pakistan, plus an easy chase for India. That, to put it politely, ain’t very good.
Then again: they lost Lockie Ferguson and Matt Henry, two key seamers, to injury, and a third, Tim Southee, has really struggled. Most sides would suffer as a result and New Zealand’s depth is paper thin, so they can’t really be blamed for it.
The ultimate example of that poor luck was against Pakistan, with the chase managed to go hard early in the knowledge that rain probably would decide the game.
DLS said Pakistan won, but the previous several thousand games of ODI cricket would suggest that the pace of that chance would have been more than a little difficult to maintain all the way up to 402.
Now their finals spot is in jeopardy and, while only Sri Lanka stand between the Black Caps and the semis, Net Run Rate could very much come into it and Pakistan play second.
6 – Afghanistan (-1)
You have to feel for Afghanistan. They play probably the best they’ve played in the whole tournament to batter Australia into a pulp, only for Maxwell to raise them from the dead.
Is there anything more they could have done? Well, the ESPNCricinfo predictor, if you believe that, had them at 99.79 per cent chance of winning, so not really.
Before that, they dealt with the Dutch handily and, across the piece, have been far, far better than anyone expected.
Mostly that’s been because of what they’ve done with the bat, best exemplified by Ibrahim Zadran’s century, their first ever at this level. Shame, really, that it wasn’t the only century in the game…
7 – Sri Lanka (-)
Cricket is full of time wasting so there’ll be no sympathy in that regard from this column. Sri Lanka have been decent mostly despite plenty of structural issues, and Dilshan Madushanka remains one of the best at this tournament, even if everyone else does have a tendency to let them down.
8 – Bangladesh (+1)
There’s no ‘splitting the cricket world’ or ‘spirit of cricket’ here: Shakib Al-Hasan’s decision to appeal for a timed out and then not withdraw it was both appropriate and hilarious.
Angelo Mathews took an age and Shakib’s bit is being that guy, so fair play. Well, maybe not ‘fair play’, more ‘accurate play’, but you get the point.
The midst of it Bangladesh gave a decent account of themselves, for once, reminding the world that they can actually play relatively well when they put their minds to it. Admittedly, that’s annoying because they so rarely have put their minds to it, but still…
9 – Netherlands (-1)
Winning isn’t everything, but it is a lot of things. In the Dutch’s case, as has been evident from the very start of the tournament, it absolutely isn’t everything, because the way they have approached the World Cup has been first class.
Upbeat, positive cricket, played with a purpose, by a bunch of blokes who are simultaneously happy to be there and determined to make the absolute most of their appearance on the biggest stage.
They have acted like they were there to win throughout, even though deep down nobody thought they would get so much as a single victory, because that’s what you do at World Cups.
They’ve been brilliant and only added to 2023’s big event – unlike, say, other teams…
10 – England (-1)
England sent out their fielding coach to do pre-match media duties for the game against the Netherlands, if you were wondering how this is all going.
Regardless of them belting the suitcase out of the Dutch on Wednesday night, they deserve last place for the spineless, shiftless way they’ve approached being rubbish, and for being rubbish in the first place, given the wealth of talent at their disposal.
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It’s shameful and also totally out of keeping with the general mood of England since the Bazball revolution, which has been to play upbeat, single-minded cricket and to embrace what happens. Oh for a dash of that now.